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Old 08-31-08, 06:42 PM   #1
Yen
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Rotating drop bars down -- problems, alternatives?

After several months riding the Roubaix I almost never ride in the drops because of the angle it imposes on my wrist to reach for the brake levers. If the levers could be mounted directly beneath the drops, I could do that. But mounted as they are on the front, I cannot angle my left wrist sideways to squeeze the brake lever without a lot of pain/discomfort. (Before the "riding in the drops feels good and is more efficient and, besides, 90% of riding isn't spent in the drops anyway" choir begins singing, let me repeat that I have a 30-year-old silicone implant in my left wrist. Forcing it into uncomfortable positions will not only hurt momentarily but probably also injure it in the long run.)

I'm considering rotating the bars downward in front so that the wrist position relative to the brake levers is more natural. However, I wonder if that would cause me to put more weight on my hands while riding on the hoods since they would be angled downward.

Are there any problems with this idea?

How easy would it be to swap the drop bars for another type and keep the same shifters and brake levers?

Or, maybe I should just swap this race horse for something more my speed.
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Old 08-31-08, 06:45 PM   #2
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You can try rotating the bars, or move the brake levers on the bar down a bit.
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Old 08-31-08, 06:59 PM   #3
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Definitely try moving the levers instead of rotating the bars (you'll need to unwrap the bar tape first). Also, most modern handlebars are the "anatomic" type with a flat section in the drops that always seemed to make the brake levers harder for me to reach. Changing to a shallow drop bar with a traditional round profile might help.
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Old 08-31-08, 07:06 PM   #4
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Back in the dark ages I used to ride what they called a touring bike. Like you I didnít spend that much time in the drops but sometimes it just seemed like a good alternative. I used to move the brake lever down so I could reach it with my index finger on both hands. It seems to me most modern road bikes have the brakes higher than my old road bike. But then again I was younger and more flexible back then.
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Old 08-31-08, 07:13 PM   #5
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Do you enjoy riding in the drops?

Your post implies that you do, and are now searching for a way to ride there more often by improving access to the brakes from that position.

Just wonderin'
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Old 08-31-08, 07:40 PM   #6
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Do you enjoy riding in the drops?
99.99% of the time, no, because I can't get to the breaks (edit: er brakes). And the remaining .01% really isn't enough time to care about them. However, I love the stretched out feeling on the hoods, though I think I'd be a little happier if they were an inch closer to me but I don't want a shorter stem because it will compromise handling. And I know that because of how the bike felt on the first test ride with a shorter stem - very twitchy.

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Your post implies that you do, and are now searching for a way to ride there more often by improving access to the brakes from that position.
My thought is to make them work so I could use them, since they're there. Otherwise, why bother? I may has well have different bars. Or a different bike.

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Just wonderin'
Just sayin'.

To the rest of you.... thanks for your suggestions to move the levers down. Since the tape is torn anyway (thanks to my second clipless fall), I could replace it at the same time.
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Old 08-31-08, 07:47 PM   #7
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99.99% of the time, no
Well, they were invented by Lucifer, so what did you expect?
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Old 08-31-08, 07:51 PM   #8
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Well, they were invented by Lucifer, so what did you expect?
I bet you were keeping your fingers crossed for that answer, weren't you!

What is it you don't like about drop bars? The drop position, or the hoods, or both?

I like riding on the hoods. I like that stretched out feel, as long as I don't feel as if I'm climbing down a ladder head first. A tiny bit closer to me would be nice, but not necessary. But the drops.... I don't race, I sit up to climb, and I can't crane my wrist to reach the brakes while in the drops.... so I don't think I need 'em.
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Old 08-31-08, 07:59 PM   #9
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Well, they were invented by Lucifer, so what did you expect?
We were talking about drop bars, not indexed front shifters.
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Old 08-31-08, 08:18 PM   #10
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99.99% of the time, no, because I can't get to the breaks. And the remaining .01% really isn't enough time to care about them. However, I love the stretched out feeling on the hoods, though I think I'd be a little happier if they were an inch closer to me but I don't want a shorter stem because it will compromise handling. And I know that because of how the bike felt on the first test ride with a shorter stem - very twitchy.

My thought is to make them work so I could use them, since they're there. Otherwise, why bother? I may has well have different bars. Or a different bike.
I agree, you might as well make them comfortable. Maybe by raising the stem (flipping, a different stem with a steeper angle etc.) you can have your handlebars higher and closer without needing a shorter stem.
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Old 08-31-08, 08:24 PM   #11
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I sometimes wonder why have the drops. If you want to get low you can bend your elbows. If you are straight arm in the drops then the joints are taking a beating. The only time I use the drops is when I have to plow into wind a long time or if I just get bored and want to use them for a while just for kicks. I have heard that some like to use them while descending but I don't like to go very fast so I prefer to sit up tall to try to keep the speed down.
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Old 08-31-08, 08:28 PM   #12
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What is it you don't like about drop bars? The drop position, or the hoods, or both?
I'm not exaggerating when I say ... EVERYTHING!

The primary source of my problems with them are my thumbs. When I have a lot of pressure on the base of my thumbs, I get pain in both hands.

I find every hand position on a drop bar to put pressure on my thumb joints. The flats are relatively thin and not adequately padded. I'm sure they would be better if I tried one that was double wrapped with a cushioned tape, but even then that's not optimal shape. The new carbon bars that have wider & flatter "flats" might be okay if they were double wrapped.

The hoods are really killers for me. The hood places a lot of pressure on my thumb joints. Even the larger, softer, more ergometric ones are not comfortable at all.

And then the drops are completely unusable. I lean forward even more, which puts more pressure on my thumbs and again they are round, which concentrates pressure on the middle of the hand and the base of my thumb.

While on a "flat" bar type of bike, I use those wide, soft ergometric grips that distribute weight across a much wider area on my hand, with much more weight on the base of my palm. Likewise for the ergo bar ends which do much of the same. Even these can cause some problems for me after a couple of hours. But on drop bars, I'm usually in pain within 10-15 minutes, and sometimes as early as 3-4 minutes.

When I took a 30 minute ride on a comfort-oriented drop bar bike earlier this year, after about 15 minutes it got quite painful. I was about 15 minutes away from the LBS and struggled to even get back, not being able to find any hand position that alleviated the pain. It was a torture ride. (Note: This was after having taken 5-15 minute test rides on at least 6-7 other drop bar road bikes over the past several months, so it was not my first time on one.)

Now, I realize that for most, they are comfortable. Else they wouldn't be used by millions of riders. I see people riding all day on them. Day after day after day on tours. With very few complaints. So it is clearly a very different experience for many people than it is for me.

If I ever pick up a drop bar bike on the cheap, my focus will be upon trying to find someway to make the bars comfortable. Then if I can achieve that, I could work on seeing if I can adapt to riding on the hoods and using brifters, neither of which I enjoy using. I far prefer ergo grips with thumbshifters or twistshifters.

So it is everything. I cannot think of a single aspect of a drop handlebar that I enjoy.
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Old 08-31-08, 08:49 PM   #13
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I sometimes wonder why have the drops. If you want to get low you can bend your elbows. If you are straight arm in the drops then the joints are taking a beating. The only time I use the drops is when I have to plow into wind a long time or if I just get bored and want to use them for a while just for kicks. I have heard that some like to use them while descending but I don't like to go very fast so I prefer to sit up tall to try to keep the speed down.
I remember reading some advice on descending long steep mountain passes by Davis Phinney. He said to stay on the brake hoods so you have a better view, especially if there are guys in front of you.

As I said in another post, the drop bar may be efficient for racing, but it's not a good example of human interface engineering. It looks like you're supposed to ride in the drops, but after seeing how experienced cyclists ride, you find they are hardly ever in the drops. How you put your hand over the brake levers is not immediately obvious; you have to look at other riders, or try different techniques to find what's comfortable and allows you to get to the brakes quickly. Fortunately, the removal of the external brake cable makes things a lot easier (and safer).

Also, although I agree with a lot of what Grant Peterson (of Rivendale) says, I take issue with his contention that the bars should be level with the saddle. I think this assumes that you ride in the drops, which is actually more the exception (like when you're trying to make time into a headwind - in which case you need a more aero position, which you do NOT get with the bars level with the saddle).

When you are in the drops, your upper body should pretty much be horizontal, giving you the best aerodynamics. Otherwise, when you're on the tops, you should be comfortable, but not too upright. The purpose of the drop bars is to put about 40% of your body weight on the front wheels. This will take weight off the saddle. I think a lot of the problems doctors like to warn men about concerns recreational cyclists who sit too upright and have too much weight on the saddle because their drop bars are too high. You never hear about racers having sexual dysfunction due to riding on their hard, narrow saddles. (They do get lower back problems, though!)

The proper "down" position may feel uncomfortable at first, but the human body is really good at adapting. Fortunately, I developed a nice stretched position back when I was in my 20's, and it feels perfectly natural with the drop bars about four or five inches below the saddle. When I'm in the drops with my arms bent, my knees just about hit my chest.

Luis
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Old 08-31-08, 08:57 PM   #14
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I sometimes wonder why have the drops. If you want to get low you can bend your elbows. If you are straight arm in the drops then the joints are taking a beating. The only time I use the drops is when I have to plow into wind a long time or if I just get bored and want to use them for a while just for kicks. I have heard that some like to use them while descending but I don't like to go very fast so I prefer to sit up tall to try to keep the speed down.
I ride in the drops quite often and bend my elbows especially if I am off the front. I generate more power in the drops due to using the gluts more plus it is more aero. It relieves some of the stress from the quads and relieves some pressure from the sit bones. In fast pace lines, I am in the drops most of the time for the same reason above. Also, in group and race situations they are the safest position to be in (assuming one can reach the brakes). It is more difficult if not impossible to hook handlebars if everyone is riding in the drops.
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Old 08-31-08, 09:05 PM   #15
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Definitely try moving the levers instead of rotating the bars (you'll need to unwrap the bar tape first). Also, most modern handlebars are the "anatomic" type with a flat section in the drops that always seemed to make the brake levers harder for me to reach. Changing to a shallow drop bar with a traditional round profile might help.
+1 I believe that there is a special insert of Shimano (not sure about Campy) that moves the lever closer to the bars for ladies. Once you rotate the brakes to a proper position, you can adjust the distance from the bar to the lever.
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Old 08-31-08, 09:50 PM   #16
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+1 I believe that there is a special insert of Shimano (not sure about Campy) that moves the lever closer to the bars for ladies. Once you rotate the brakes to a proper position, you can adjust the distance from the bar to the lever.
Thanks Hermes, I'll check on that.

I just remembered something.... I was riding for a while in the drops a few weeks ago on a trail where we were alone and I could go fast and not have to look for cars, people, or anything else. I noticed that my legs felt totally different in that position. I didn't notice anything different about my neck, back or arms -- just my legs. They felt as if a different set of muscles were being used.

I have noticed that more muscle sets are slightly sore after rides on the Roubaix -- not just the quads but also the glutes, arms, and shoulders. That makes it more of a fitness bike that an upright hybrid which seemed to work only the quads (and even more so, considering it weighs 2x as much).
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Old 08-31-08, 09:51 PM   #17
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The proper "down" position may feel uncomfortable at first, but the human body is really good at adapting. Fortunately, I developed a nice stretched position back when I was in my 20's, and it feels perfectly natural with the drop bars about four or five inches below the saddle. When I'm in the drops with my arms bent, my knees just about hit my chest.

Luis
Good for you, but my 1" below saddle position works much better for me now than the original 4" below position that I enjoyed 15 years ago. There is no one way that works for everyone. To each his own.
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Old 08-31-08, 09:59 PM   #18
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Sheldon's advice on bars for touring...
http://www.sheldonbrown.com/deakins/handlebars.html

I like the look of the moustache bars... they look very comfortable whereas every position would feel natural for my wrist.
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Old 08-31-08, 10:36 PM   #19
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Have you tried moving your saddle forward a bit?
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Old 08-31-08, 10:45 PM   #20
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Sheldon's advice on bars for touring...
http://www.sheldonbrown.com/deakins/handlebars.html

I like the look of the moustache bars... they look very comfortable whereas every position would feel natural for my wrist.
If you already feel too stretched out on your bike, moustache bars will be worse. A shorter stem is recommended with moustache bars because of the forward hand position.
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Old 09-01-08, 06:11 AM   #21
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+1 I believe that there is a special insert of Shimano (not sure about Campy) that moves the lever closer to the bars for ladies. Once you rotate the brakes to a proper position, you can adjust the distance from the bar to the lever.
Hey...I use those (and I am not a lady)! They are called Slim Shim Brake Lever Spacers, and they are made by Specialized. They work very well.

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Old 09-01-08, 07:16 AM   #22
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Yen, there are many different shapes and sizes of drop bars. When I got my last bike, I tried 4 different bars before I found the one I like most. On the previous bike, I kept the original bars, and in hindsight, that's one thing that I don't like about that bike.
Your fit on the bike will affect the position of your hands on the bars, too. If the bars are too low, it will be hard to reach the brake levers. Your elbows should be bent, shoulders relaxed, in all positions.
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Old 09-01-08, 08:42 AM   #23
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Hey...I use those (and I am not a lady)! They are called Slim Shim Brake Lever Spacers, and they are made by Specialized. They work very well.

Steve
Sorry...
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Old 09-01-08, 09:20 AM   #24
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Thanks Hermes, I'll check on that.

I just remembered something.... I was riding for a while in the drops a few weeks ago on a trail where we were alone and I could go fast and not have to look for cars, people, or anything else. I noticed that my legs felt totally different in that position. I didn't notice anything different about my neck, back or arms -- just my legs. They felt as if a different set of muscles were being used.

I have noticed that more muscle sets are slightly sore after rides on the Roubaix -- not just the quads but also the glutes, arms, and shoulders. That makes it more of a fitness bike that an upright hybrid which seemed to work only the quads (and even more so, considering it weighs 2x as much).
First, Yen, I think what you just said here demonstrates that you see value in having a viable drop position to ride in. So, ignore those people who say A. you shouldn't have drop bars at all, and B. don't move the bar from where the fitter or factory set it. It's yours and you can make it work. Start by getting those shims, I wish they would fit my Campy levers!

I had this same problem when I put Ritchey Biomax II bars on my Mondonico. The ergo section of the bar was clearly where my drop hand position was intended to be, but I couldn't have the right wrist angle or reach the brakes. First I tried rotating the bars down to get the grip to a comfortable angle. I don't have an injury, but I do play classic guitar, and need to keep my wrists free of discomfort - I'll pay later!

However, there really wasn't a position for the levers where I could reach and have a decent top/hood/ramp position! So I got rid of the ritcheys, and added some Nitto Noodles. The Noodle has top ramps and drop ends that are nearly parallel, so if you rotate the bar so the hooks are level or just a little down, there is still a good top ramp angle, that you can easily rest some weight on.

Plus the depth of drop is about equal to the brake lever length, so the end of the brake lever will be close to the bar with the hood tops set level. You might still have some reach issues (I still do), but I found it more comfortable overall than the Ritchey.

I now have the noodle bars with the drops angled down about 5 degrees (looks like just a little angle) and the lever tips a little lower than the drops go. Next step for me is to move the levers up maybe 5 mm, to return the hood top to level and get a nice perch for my hands again.

I don't know if this is clear, but I'm trying to tell you what's starting to work for me.

With your Specialized stem (31 mm clamp) I don't think you can use Noodles (26 mm clamp), but there might be a shim you can get to make the interface work.

Another bar that might be worth trying is the FSA Compact. Again a shallow bar with a smooth curved hook and long flat area at the end, and it should be available in 31 mm.

Road Fan

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Old 09-01-08, 09:29 AM   #25
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short answer:

I see no problems with rotating your bars down. You may have to adjust the brake lever position

If you love your race horse, make her work for you. There are so many handlebars in the world, and so many different positioning options, that you are nowhere near the end of the line.

I like round profile bars, like the Cinelli 64, the Nitto Noodle and the B115, and the FSA Compact. I think they give you more options than most anatomic-styled bars.

Can your LBS help you?

Road Fan
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